It was a simple denial of a defense motion for continuance that resulted in overturning a $2.5 million verdict in favor of a plaintiff whose wife had died in a truck accident. That doesn’t mean plaintiff has lost, but it will start the lengthy process of trial preparation all over again. It’s possible when faced with this prospect (and already knowing how a jury might weigh the facts of the case), that a settlement will be worked out before it comes to that.
Still, it’s disappointing news for the plaintiff, whose truck crash case was recently weighed by the Alabama Supreme Court.
On the day of the accident, pursuant to a contract with the owner of a local paper mill, defendant instructed his employees to drive two company dump trucks to gather debris and take it to a nearby dump site. After loading the trucks, the drivers traveled to the dump site, which required them to travel down a narrow, two-lane road for part of the way.
Motorists driving the opposite direction later testified that they crossed paths with one of those trucks, a white one (distinctive in this case) that was not entirely in its lane, prompting them to move over to allow safe passage. They also testified that while driving on that road, they did not pass a car crashed into a cluster of trees. A few minutes later, a co-worker of one of these other motorists, who was traveling some distance behind, called his cell to indicate he had seen a car that appeared to have veered off the road and was resting against a tree. It was later learned the driver of that car did not survive.
Investigators pieced it together and ultimately opined the dump truck, belonging to defendant and driven by defendant’s employee, had failed to stay within its lane, prompting the car driver to veer off the road and into the trees, resulting in her instant death. The truck driver denied it.
The case went to trial. However, one of plaintiff’s key witnesses – the only person who reportedly witnessed the crash firsthand – was not revealed by plaintiff’s attorney to defendant’s attorney until just before the trial – despite being aware of this witness for several months. Defense counsel sought a continuance (a postponement of a court proceeding) so he could have time to depose this witness. However, the judge denied this request.
After all the evidence was heard, judge granted plaintiff’s motion for a directed verdict in plaintiff’s favor. Jurors then awarded plaintiff $2.5 million in damages.
The state supreme court, however, reversed, finding the trial court exceeded its discretion in refusing defense request for a continuance to depose the critical witness. The court remanded the case back to trial.
The case underscores how complex car accident lawsuits can be, especially when there is limited and/or conflicting testimony. It’s imperative that victims of truck accidents seek counsel from an experienced wrongful death attorney who will work to ensure these kinds of oversights don’t derail your case.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Mitchell’s Contracting Service, LLC v. Gleason, Dec. 8, 2017, Alabama Supreme Court
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Snowbirds: Make Sure Your Vehicle is Properly Insured, or Risk Denial of Accident Claims, Dec. 1, 2017, Orlando Truck Accident Attorney Blog